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Archive for November 7th, 2014

The Demon (1978)

The Demon

A woman with 3 children who is struggling to make ends meet dumps the children with their father who partly owns a printing business with his wife before disappearing. The couple are close to the poverty line as they are and having 3 more mouths to feed doesn’t help the situation. The wife despises the children as it reminds her of the infidelity that her husband has committed over the years behind her back. The father tries to take them back to the woman’s home but she has cleared out of her apartment and there is no chance of tracing her. With his wife constantly nagging at him to get rid of the kids, the father’s thoughts soon turns to murdering them.

This harrowing movie about child abuse makes for some difficult viewing and what makes it even worse is the main offender is the children’s father in what is the ultimate betrayal of trust between a child and parent. The father isn’t what you might call a strong character – he’s harassed and bullied by his domineering wife Oume and she is the one that plants the seeds of murder in his mind. The title of the movie may point to a number of persons in the movie – it doesn’t refer to what people might normally perceive as a demon (no horns or tail on this demon). I thought at first it was directed at the evil stepmother who wants the kids dead but it’s probably more appropriate for the father. He may not have been an evil person when the viewer first meet him but there was something inside him that changed when the children were dumped with him. You would think he would sympathise with the children’s situation given that he was abandoned as a child as well. Some people are saying that the eldest child could be the demon of the movie but we’ll get to his story later on.

The first of the three children to suffer is the youngest (a toddler) who can’t defend himself. Due to neglect in care, he becomes painfully malnourished and is left in the hands of Oume while the two other children are out playing and the father is doing some errands. He comes back to find the child face down and lying prone underneath a sheet upstairs with his wife sorting something out on some shelving. It’s implied that she may have murdered him possibly by asphyxiation but it’s never really explained. Seeing her carrying on with her work whilst the child lies dead at her feet is diabolical but that’s the type of woman she is. There’s hardly any grief shown by the father. I did find my blood beginning to boil during this scene.

the-demon1978-screenshot

The middle child (a cute little girl of around 4 to 5 years old) is the next to go. The father takes her on a trip to Tokyo with the intention of leaving her there when she’s not looking. His first attempt at doing this in a toy store fails miserably but he succeeds at the observation deck of Tokyo Tower. While she’s looking through the coin operated binoculars, he slyfully walks away and into the lift to take him down to ground level. Just as the doors of the lift close, the girl turns around and spots him but it’s too late. As she has no idea where her father lives, another problem is sorted for him and his wife. That’s the last the viewer sees of the girl though you hope that she’s been adopted by a nice family and looked after properly.

And finally we come to the eldest son Riichi who’s not as stupid as his father thinks he is. He sort of knows what’s been going on and that both his father and stepmother are out to get him. Again, the father takes him on a bus trip to the coast with the intention of abandoning him but he knows his son will know his address so he comes up with a drastic and dastardly plan of throwing him over a cliff in a beautiful location. But before all that, he tries to poison the boy in Ueno Park, Tokyo by putting cyanide inside his sandwiches but the boy finds the taste of the sandwiches a bit weird so he spits out what he’s eaten out. The fury of the father is trying to force the food down his throat. It is only stopped when a walking couple comes across what’s taking place and the father stops what he’s doing. The father’s nefarious plan to kill his son takes place when the last bus to go back home has gone and it leaves both of them on top of a cliff facing the sea. He waits for his son to become sleepy, lifts his body up and lets it go over the cliff. Naturally the viewer thinks it’s curtains for the boy but there’s a twist to this tale which I will not spoil. Eventually the cops cotton on what’s been taking place and well I think I better leave at what happens next. One thing becomes obvious in that despite everything the kids go through they never once lose faith in their father.

Ken Ogata is outstanding in this movie as the father and he goes through a range of emotions which are perfectly expressed. He won an award (the Japanese equivalent of an Oscar) for his portrayal of a desperate man who commits acts of cruelty towards his own children.

The Demon is a gut-wrenching movie and one of the best I’ve seen on the matter of child abuse. It isn’t an easy movie to watch but the plot is gripping and you’ll be on the edge of your seat with the horrific events that take place. Recommended.

No trailer I’m afraid

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Chicken-and-Duck-Talk-1988

Hui is the owner of a cooked duck restaurant which has a very loyal customer base that come there regularly despite the fact that place is very unhygienic. The staff that work for him feels they are unappreciated and recieve low pay but Hui doesn’t seem to care. The dominance of Hui’s place ends when a new fast food restaurant named Danny’s Fried Chicken open right across the road. The owner of Danny’s intends to crush Hui’s restaurant so they can try and buy the place. Despite Hui thinking that Danny’s will not attract a lot of customers, he is forced to rethink when people start going in droves there and one of his trusted workers Cuttlefish is fired and leaves to find work in the new place. To try and get his old customers back to his joint, Hui is forced to try out some gimmicks in the hope that it’ll help his business and for a while it does until Danny’s owner resorts to some dirty tricks by forcing rats into the restaurant from the ceiling. The Health Inspectors come there and close the place down. What will Hui do now that his restaurant is closed and how does he intend to get his revenge on Danny’s owner?

This is one of Hong Kong’s most celebrated and highly acclaimed comedy movie. It was a big crowd pleaser at the time of it’s release. Considering it was made over 25 years ago, it has aged remarkably well. It’s a satire movie of a traditional restaurant taking on a large corporation which use cut throat methods to destroy their opposition. It was written and directed by the main star of the movie – Michael Hui. If you don’t know who Michael Hui is then you know nothing about the HK film industry where he’s seen as a bit of a national treasure in the province. Along with his two brothers (one of whom stars alongside him in this movie), Michael revived the HK film industry during the 70’s which was in a bit of a doldrums due to it being dominated by the Shaw Brothers for so long. This very funny comedy was made at the height of Hui’s popularity. I’m usually wary when critics give praise to a movie so much and I was prepared to be disappointed. However, after viewing this movie I can say that the plaudits that have rained down on this movie is quite rightly justified.

Chicken and duck talk screenshot

This hilarious movie has many laugh out loud moments and most of the laughs are due to Hui’s performance as the grouchy boss of the duck restaurant who doesn’t give a toss about keeping his place neat and tidy and uses cheap tactics to try and win back his customers from Danny’s but fails. Even though he’s not a nice character, you can’t help but like him. He comes to his senses near the end and tries to change his ways. He even has to swallow his pride at accepting money from his mother in law to spruce up the restaurant. I can’t tell you the numerous amount of times I laughed over the course of the movie. Hui dresses up as an Indian woman in one funny sequence in order to infiltrate Danny’s but is discovered by the owner when the polish he’s used to blacken up his face starts to come off!! Another example of the superb humour which is seen in this movie comes in a scene in which some hygiene inspectors come to Hui’s restaurant after reports of rats there. Hui and his staff use soup bowls to try and hide the live rats that are dropping from the ceiling and they come up with a variety of excuses such as doing exercises and dancing in order to lie to the inspectors. This ruse however is eventually found out by them.

Kudos has to go to Michael Hui who is quite simply brilliant in this movie. Everything from his performance to the way he’s co-written the script is great. The interplay between Michael and his brother Ricky is fantastic. You only have to see their famous fight/chase on a ledge of a building in chicken/duck costumes to appreciate the chemistry they have with each other and another scene in which Ricky tries to find out Michael’s secret duck recipe by using saucepans and mirrors to spy on him. There is a message in this movie in that shiny flash new fast food restaurants by corporations might look good on the outside but to savour the taste of proper HK food you have to go to a traditional outlet instead.

Overall, Chicken And Duck Talk is an amazing movie. It is definitely one you should track down if you enjoy laugh out loud comedies. I really enjoyed myself watching this thoroughly entertaining movie. Definitely recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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